Book Review: The Failsafe Query, Failsafe Novel Book 1, Michael Jenkins
Thriller: The Failsafe Query, Failsafe Novel Book 1, Michael Jenkins
Like many spy thrillers, The Failsafe Query starts with a seemingly small mission in the past. Unlike many of them, though, this mission is not set during the Cold War or other times fraught with East/West overt tension, but rather in 2005. Sean Richardson and his team have completed their mission successfully and he hands the data over to an unknown figure.
Some years later, Sean is on his own trying to protect a would-be defector to Britain. The mission is compromised and Sean barely escapes with his life. Deciding after such a close call that he needs to settle down, Sean returns home and marries. His dream is to have a “normal” life with a wife and kids. Sadly, that dream is not to be.
Years later, Sean is a broken and different man. Having left government service he has gone freelance. Poorly choosing his employers, Sean ends up in a foreign prison, facing torture and a long, painful, drawn out death. But, his country is not done with him. Needing his expertise, they arrange a rescue. In exchange, they want his help finding a would-be whistleblower who has disappeared. Sean agrees, but will he really fully return to helping a government he already abandoned once? Or will he execute his own agenda, one which can secure his retirement from the action?
Michael Jenkins has created a very memorable character in Sean Richardson. Sean is haunted by ghosts of his past: his dead wife, his betrayal by someone during that failed mission, his time in jail. These ghosts do not prevent him from fulfilling his job, but they constantly make him question his own motives and those of his handlers. He may be in Her Majesty’s Service, but that Service has a lot to answer for in his mind. Far from the confident no-questions-asked protagonists of many spy thrillers, Sean is full of questions, full of doubts, and full of troubles. Once, he acted unhesitantly for Queen and Country. Those days are long past.
Unlike many spy thrillers, the setting for this one is relatively narrow in scope. After the preliminary scenes establishing Sean’s bona fides in Moscow and Uzbekistan and his rescue from Afghanistan, most of the action takes place in England and in a small village in France. Although it’s fun to read about spies jetting all around the world, keeping the setting small allows the plot to unfold organically. I suspect Sean will get to travel more in future, but getting to know him and his team without constant travel (and often questionable timelines) is a nice touch.
The Failsafe Query is a bit different from other spy novels, differences which make it well worth adding to your collection. It features a capable but nearly broken protagonist and a constrained setting which, although it has global ramifications, keeps the plot focused on the characters. Yet it still checks most of the boxes that draw us to these novels: plenty of action, beautiful people (men and women), and dark secrets reaching to the heights of government. A very nice debut novel.
Our thanks to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for providing this book to give context for the blog tour posts of the next two books in this series. This writer’s OCD is quite grateful to read the series in order!
Michael Jenkins MBE served for twenty-eight years in the British Army, rising through the ranks to complete his service as a major. He served across the globe on numerous military operations as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive-ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor in the Corps of Royal Engineers. His experiences in the services involved extensive travel and adventure whilst on operations, and also on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that he either led or was involved in. He was awarded the Geographic Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for mountain exploration and served on the screening committee of the Mount Everest Foundation charity. He was awarded the MBE on leaving the armed forces in 2007 for his services to counterterrorism.
Book Review: The Failsafe Query, Michael Jenkins